George Luis Machado Name: George Luis Machado
monogamy I think, and that idea.
Gender Identification: Male
When you speak about ‘machismo’ and ‘Dominican’ those are specific identifying terms, what do you mean by them?
Talk to me about your relationships with women growing up. Wow. This is so timely. Coincidences are awesome, it’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’m Dominican, and there are a lot of, kind of intense machismo and patriarchy in Dominican culture. I always had my mother who tried to break out of that in some respect. She would emphasize all the negative things about it, and then there were all the males in my life who were glorifying it, so I had this crazy pull in between what it meant to treat a woman with respect and what it meant to just amass numbers of women, as much as you possibly can and all the time. It’s this really crazy influence with how I interacted with women. I struggle with it constantly. I ask myself how my upbringing influenced my relationships with women and does that hinder or help me participate in radical feminist, women’s lib.
What is an example of something your mom told you, or exemplified to you, about this backlash or response to oppression? I think she usually just expressed the pain she felt. To not do anything like that to anyone else, and if someone did that to her, would I ever want her to feel this way? And in respect to, I guess traditionally in Dominican culture, there are supposedly monogamous relationships, but men for the most part cheat, and it’s a common occurrence, really. At least, when you’re younger, and even when you are older. This is what was, for me, the norm, and for my father and the males around me. And then my mom would constantly speak about that, in particular. So it also has a lot to do with
It’s like a swagger, like the machismo comes in, in a kind of competition, or just like, almost like celebratory, camaraderie between males. It’s strange stories of conquest and that’s the vibe to it. That’s how its put together, and not only this idea, it’s also about mastering, seduction, and being able to do that. Being able to ‘get’ women, even that ‘get’ , ‘possess’ , ‘have’ . That was the word that was used, ‘get,’ like you can acquire women.
How did you understand that? Was that all you knew and you tried to emulate it, or when did your struggle to break that begin? I was always struggling to break that, it was always just a back and forth. My mother, from a very young age started talking to me about these things. We were living in NY since I was 5 or 6, so from a very young age she started speaking to me about the way my father treated her and what not. And in more and more detail as I got older. It wasn’t specifically about my father, but things like ‘be nice to your wife,’ just stories and stuff, and as I got older she would tell me more details about her relationship with my father. And more abstract ideas about ‘playing’ women. Which is a term like, ‘playing’, like its a game. The use of the word ‘play’ as a descriptive, as calculating. Growing up I didn’t want to be disrespectful or in any way oppressive, even though I didn’t have the language then, I didn’t want to hurt anyone. At the same time, my desire not to hurt anyone and not to be that way, led in a sense to paralyzing me, because I was like ‘I don’t want to disappoint my
mother,’ but at the same time I didn’t want to disappoint the male counterparts in my family. Especially because my father wasn’t around, he was in prison the majority of my life and when he got out he would just call me sporadically, and one of the only questions he asked me was how many girlfriends I had. It’s something I got from my uncles too, and my cousins. But I was just like ‘I don’t see it that way.’ But even though I didn’t see it that way, I would seek their approval. I wouldn’t be as explicit or vulgar as they were, but I’d be like “I’m doing my thing, whatever.” And even now, when I’m there in the middle of it. And I don’t have the language to translate it to them. I don’t have the language of women’s lib and feminism to something that is legible to them. I’m just nodding my head, I don’t know where to start there. I don’t do it like that, I don’t see it like that, but I don’t know how to really get into it. For the most part, they don’t even want to get into it.
Outside of your family, do you think there were outside influences of how you were supposed to interact with women, or was it mainly a conditioning from early childhood? I feel like its definitely a bunch of other things. It wasn’t solely my family but the general culture within which I was raised, that Dominican patriarchy in particular. My uncles that live in the Dominican Republic still don’t do their own laundry. I always had my mother who was the opposite of that, and she taught me to be the opposite of that. So it is stupid. She would say “Do your own laundry, wash your own dishes, I’m not here to be your servant.” And she would constantly drill me. “I’m not here to cook and clean,” she would even say it to my uncles. What else, TV, school, that whole game in school was always a big thing. Not knowing how to play it really
in school, just not being good at it. I just couldn’t, and I didn’t like women my age at all, I couldn’t speak to them. It was tough. For most of high school I was just putting on an act to try to relate to these people. I had people that I hooked up with, and then I had only one serious girlfriend in high school. The rest was just here and there, things happening, because I don’t know, I think it had a lot to do with being in RI during that time.
tion from all of these things, and I know that without liberating everyone I can’t be liberated myself. So any time I see it perpetuated I get really frustrated. I want something better, so badly, I’m sick of this. I’m really fucking sick. I want something different. I want something that isn’t oppressive. So it’s really frustrating when I see it in those spaces, but it’s everywhere. At least its acknowledged sometimes.
I saw my dad for the first time in a decade a year and a half ago, and he says like, “I don’t give a fuck what you do, as long as you’re the best at it. You can be a plumber, an electrician, a music producer, the president, a drug dealer, an assassin,” and It still reinforces this insane competitive nonsense. He is very much the alpha male in his community, on the block in the Dominican Republic, with the most social capital, you could say. My dad owns a business and he hires a lot of people on the block, so my family has a lot of sway in our area. And everyone knows my dad, he is like the surrogate father to all of the little children and everyone listens to my dad, the patriarch in the neighborhood. And then I show up after being gone for 10 years and I’m heralded like the prodigal son. They’re just like ‘oh you’re George’s son? Come over!’
Do you think everyone is in a different place with every issue?
Being active politically, how do you feel like people relate to one another in those contexts? Do you think it mirrors the oppressions that everyone is conditioned with? Do you think we are really acting in ‘revolutionary ways’ and do you see improvement in the community as compared to larger society? I don’t know all of that. No, sometimes it feels like we’re not making any strides whatsoever and its really frustrating. I think the idea of unearned privilege basically needs to fuck off. I want libera-
In the close relationships of my very close friends, I see tremendous progress with misogyny and sexism and these things. It’s always there, I don’t know if any of us can get rid of it entirely. With myself, I think I can rid myself of it eventually. My friend said ‘ everyone is problematic’ and it’s like, I feel like if we really want to make a world that is not oppressive, that we need to embody that, that we are all problematic. I’m inspired by my female comrades. I look to [redacted] when I need advice and guidance all of the time. I think i kind of annoy her sometimes, I ask her for general advice about things and ask for her perspective. That’s why it means so much to me cause I see her as person that is so very unproblematic, and for her to say everyone is problematic, its like, that’s fucking awesome. Her, [redacted], yourself, [redacted], it blows my mind that there are so many inspirational female presenting comrades in my life right now.
I feel like this project for me has been that reconciliation. I have always been very proud of being a woman and I know I deserve to be considered a fully human being, and once I figured that out, it became about not being the binary, about
not hating men for their conditioning. And also not hating myself for my own. My first interactions with a man, to have that be a really negative, traumatic one, It affected my whole mindscape. It made me become really critical, with good reason. It’s complex and in a relationship to larger societal occurances that I saw as fucked up about me presenting myself as female, and the way that I was treated for that. It has come really close to a point of being like ‘fuck them.’ I get tired of trying to initiate intimate relationships with men because it always seemed to boil down to being some kind of sexual advance, and when I get duped about that, it’s really fucked up, because I’ve taught myself to be such a good judge of character, push them away, keep them at this length so that they don’t fuck up your life. That’s the conditioning of it. That was my history. Now I have so many male presenting comrades, friends, and people that are supportive of me. It has just destroyed those concepts from even being a possibility of how I think about people. I don’t want to be at a point of hating people, that isn’t any intrinsic part of who I want to be, who I am. I love people. I really do. But we all have these things that we struggle against and this has been a quest for me to understand how it is affecting you and others, because I understood the trauma that I had as being about me and the thing is, this system affects everyone. It affects you, and honestly when this project is finished I want you to look at the other people’s stories and be like, shit, this person grew up on the other side of the world, and the commonalities are just incredible. I think it stems from a serious fear of intimacy.